2023 Distinguished Lecture Series

Meet world-renowned researchers at lectures hosted by the School of Computing Science. These are open to students, researchers and those working in industry and education to share the latest leading-edge research. Admission is free of charge.

Contact is Yasutaka Furukawa (furukawa@sfu.ca).


Pat Hanrahan

Date: Thursday, May 18, 2023

Time: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM PST

Location: TASC 1 9204, Burnaby campus

Talk Title: Shading Languages and the Emergence of Programmable Graphics Systems

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Abstract: A major challenge in using computer graphics for movies and games is to create a rendering system that can create realistic pictures of a virtual world.  The system must handle the variety and complexity of the shapes, materials, and lighting that combine to create what we see every day.  The images must also be free of artifacts, emulate cameras to create depth of field and motion blur, and compose seamlessly with photographs of live action.

Pixar's RenderMan was created for this purpose, and has been widely used in feature film production.  A key innovation in the system is to use a shading language to procedurally describe appearance.  Shading languages were subsequently extended to run in real-time on graphics processing units (GPUs), and now shading languages are widely used in game engines.  The final step was the realization that the GPU is a data-parallel computer, and the the shading language could be extended into a general-purpose data-parallel programming language.  This enabled a wide variety of applications in high performance computing, such as physical simulation and machine learning, to be run on GPUs.  Nowadays, GPUs are the fastest computers in the world. This talk will review the history of shading languages and GPUs, and discuss the broader implications for computing.

Biography: Pat Hanrahan is the Canon Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in the Computer Graphics Laboratory at Stanford University.  His research focuses on rendering algorithms, graphics systems, and visualization.  Hanrahan received a Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1985.  As a founding employee at Pixar Animation Studios in the 1980s, Hanrahan led the design of the RenderMan Interface Specification and the RenderMan Shading Language.  In 1989, he joined the faculty of Princeton University.  In 1995, he moved to Stanford University.  More recently, Hanrahan served as a co-founder and CTO of Tableau Software.  He has received three Academy Awards for Science and Technology, the SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award, the SIGGRAPH Stephen A. Coons Award, and the IEEE Visualization Career Award.  He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  In 2019, he received the ACM A. M. Turing Award.

Kevin Murphy

Date: Friday, February 03, 2023

Time: 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM PST

Location: TASC 1 9204, Burnaby campus

Talk Title: The four pillars of machine learning

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Abstract: I will present a unified perspective on the field of machine learning research, following the structure of my recent book, "Probabilistic Machine Learning: Advanced Topics" (https://probml.github.io/book2). In particular, I will discuss various models and algorithms for tackling the following four key tasks, which I call the "4 pillars of ML": prediction, control, discovery and generation. For each of these tasks, I will also briefly summarize a few of my own contributions, including methods for  robust prediction under distribution shift, statistically efficient online decision making, discovering hidden regimes in high-dimensional time series data and for generating high-resolution images.

Biography: Kevin was born in Ireland, but grew up in England. He got his BA from U. Cambridge, his MEng from U. Pennsylvania, and his PhD from UC Berkeley. He then did a postdoc at MIT, and was an associate professor of computer science and statistics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, from 2004 to 2012. After getting tenure, he went to Google in California on his sabbatical and then ended up staying. He currently runs a team of about 8 researchers inside of Google Brain; the team works on generative models, Bayesian inference, ML methods that go beyond the iid assumption, and various other topics. Kevin has published over 125 papers in refereed conferences and journals, as well 3 textbooks on machine learning published in 2012, 2022 and 2023 by MIT Press. (The 2012 book was awarded the DeGroot Prize for best book in the field of Statistical Science.) Kevin was also the (co) Editor-in-Chief of JMLR 2014--2017.